This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise - We Are The Mighty
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This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.


The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Medal of Honor recipient and community activist John Baca got the attention of former Marine and MOH recipient Dakota Meyer for his work with the community in San Diego. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”

Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.

On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”

The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.

“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.

Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Baca’s need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA. (Photo from Gidget Fuentes)

Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.

The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.

Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.

“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.

Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.

Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”

Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.

“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”

When Baca checked out the truck,  the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How flying ambulances make battlefield evacuations possible

The morning starts early with an alert about four hours before takeoff. Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron begin several mandatory tasks before boarding the aircraft. Nurses go over mission details, as medical technicians pack more than a thousand pounds of equipment on a flatbed that is ready to load onto the plane. They must take all their usual gear, including bandages, intravenous fluid, regulators, defibrillators, suction units, and various other pieces of medical equipment. They take these supplies partially as a precaution, as they don’t know what they may need to keep patients stable in the air above the Middle East.


These teams, the aircrew, and aircraft are flying ambulances for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

The 379th EAES, deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, is one of the only two aeromedical evacuation squadrons in the AOR available to pull wounded warriors off of the battlefield and make sure they get the care they need.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Deveril Wint (right), medical crew director, and Capt. Elise Cunningham, a flight nurse, both with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, pack equipment up after a mission to pick up sick patients in Afghanistan, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Nov. 25, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

According to Lt. Col. Julia Moretti, 379th EAES commander, their job is to transport wounded warriors to a higher echelon of care.

“We take them from the battlefield all the way home,” Moretti said.

If military personnel get injured or sick on the battlefield, the wounded initially receive first aid buddy care. If life-saving surgery is needed, the patients are flown to the nearest hospital abroad.

That is where 379th EAES comes in. They bring the injured service member back to Al Udeid AB. If they require more intensive care, they will then be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and if they can’t be fully treated overseas, they will return to the U.S.

“The goal is to keep them at the lowest level of care, rehab them, and then get them back into the fight quickly as possible,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Ausfeld, 379th EAES first sergeant.

In addition to the AE teams, the squadron also has Critical Care Air Transport Teams, which are specialized medical teams comprised of one doctor, an intensive care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. If AE teams are the flying ambulance, CCATT is the ICU.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Miguel Rodriguez, a medical technician with the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, inputs patient data to a computer during a mission to pick up patients in Afghanistan, Nov. 25, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

If patients can be treated and return to work while deployed, they will stay in the AOR. However, if they have a more severe condition and can’t physically manage doing office work as they recover, they will return home.

As the war has progressed, the severity, type, and amount of injuries have decreased significantly. In the early 2000s, the teams would care for 20-30 patients that would require transporting on a litter.

“Now that is the exception, and we’re glad to see we aren’t having that many now,” Moretti said.

Aeromedical evacuation teams are made up of two nurses and three medical technicians. All members of AE are considered flight crew and, on top of all the medical expertise they must know and practice, they also need to know all about the aircraft they are flying on. They have to know how to put together seats, install stanchions to hold patient litters and how the electricity works for their machines aboard the aircraft, among many other details.

Also Read: This is why wounded troops don’t spend entire wars in field hospitals anymore

AE teams are also required to have the knowledge to perform their duties on a wide variety of aircraft, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, and C-21.

The AE teams here exemplify total force integration in that active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard members combine to create the medical teams. In fact, only a small percentage of the teams are made up of active duty Airmen.

“The Guard and Reserve components are a key part in the Aeromedical Evacuation world,” Moretti said. “Around 88 percent of AE is Guard and Reserve augmenting active duty. It’s a team effort with all the components to transport and care for our Wounded Warriors.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron discuss mission details on a C-130 Hercules during a mission to pick up sick patients in Iraq, over the skies of the Middle East, Nov. 11, 2017. The job of the EAES is to transport wounded warriors from a lower echelon of care to a higher echelon of care. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

According to Moretti and Ausfeld, the job of an AE Airman is a rewarding one.

“It’s a great feeling helping our wounded warriors,” Moretti said. “Taking care of our own that were injured or became sick while protecting us, it’s a small way to give back. We pamper the patients and give them the best tender, loving care we can.”

“I’ve moved wounded warriors around the world, some with severe battle injuries,” Ausfeld said. “They’ll look you in the eyes and thank you for what you’re doing for them. It can catch you off guard and it can be hard to respond to. Because these warriors, these sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, have sacrificed their body and soul. We’re just making sure they get home.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch this Gunship turn a military parade into a real-life Benny Hill skit

It looks like a staged comedy skit, but apparently, an Indonesian Army Mi-35P gunship helicopter made an unanticipated low pass over goose-stepping Indonesian troops marching in review and things went wrong quickly. The results are worth a chuckle.

The amusing incident took place either in preparation for or during the Indonesian Military, or TNI, 74th anniversary military parade and air show at the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in East Jakarta on Oct. 5, 2019.


While the rest of Indonesia’s military anniversary display was indeed impressive, this incident looks likely to steal the show. Possibly, the crew of an Indonesian Mi-35P Gunship was inspired by the tower fly-by scene in “Top Gun”, or, maybe they never saw it and failed to anticipate what would happen if they decided to “buzz the bandstand” like a rotary wing version of Maverick and Goose. The result was a little more than spilled coffee.

Indonesian Army #TNIAD Mi-35P during #TNI 74th anniversary parade

www.youtube.com

With several formations of marching units passing in review in front of a large banner and a covered bandstand, the helicopter crew makes a low and slow hovering pass overhead in review. Apparently, the signs and the tent hadn’t been tested for the rotor wash from the big gunship. The signs come down, the dust goes up, the bandstand collapses, and we can’t stop hitting the “replay” button to see the whole thing happen over again.

The entire episode didn’t appear to cause any injuries from the looks of it, except perhaps a bruise to the Indonesian attack helicopter community’s ego. Hopefully the entire affair was cleaned up quickly, the Mi-35P crew gained some altitude and flew away and the parade went on. Maybe the best takeaway in this video is, if you’re going to buzz the tents and a military parade, don’t do it in a big helicopter.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY MONEY

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu announces its expansion of sites within the Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Amaani Lyle)


Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.

The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.

Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Masks, decorated by service members, sit on display as part of the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (National Endowment for the Arts courtesy photo)

The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.

Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.

The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.

Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.

“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”

Articles

Congress passes Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act

Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.


Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.

On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.

“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”

He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.

Related: How to honor Vietnam War Veterans

Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.

Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.

Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.

“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”

In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:

— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”

— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”

— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

China and Australia are getting along better, but still cold

Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.

That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.

Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.


In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.

At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.

“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

United States President Donald Trump.

In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.

Making the enemy less of an enemy

“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.

It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.

For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.

Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.

We don’t want to talk about Kevin

The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.

Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.

What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.

Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.

“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”

Salt on the wound

“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”

This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”

The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.

Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.

“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.

An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.

Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”

“Let Australia pay the price …”

On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.

“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”

The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”

“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”

However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.

According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”

“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.

A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation

Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.

Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.

“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

The first machine gun was invented before the Revolutionary War

If you don’t think East-West relations have come very far in the past few centuries, consider the fact that James Puckle’s flintlock revolver fired two types of ammo: round shot for use against Christians, and square shot for use against Muslims. The square shot was supposed to hurt more, convincing Muslims of the superiority of Christian life.


This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise

Invented in 1718, his “Puckle Gun” is the first weapon to be called a “machine gun,” even if it doesn’t fit the modern definition of the word. The Puckle Gun was tripod mounted, intended for use on ships but had field uses as well. The cylinders revolved manually, firing 32mm shot through a 3-foot barrel and loaded while detached from the main gun.

The main problem was that instead of shooting a series of shots, the chamber had to be unscrewed before the handle could revolve the ammo, then screwed in again to seal the breech to the barrel. In demonstrations, the Puckle Gun could fire nine rounds per minute, tripling the output of disciplined troops, whose rate was three rounds per minute.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
A replica of the Puckle Gun.

The armed forces of Britain didn’t respond favorably to the weapon. As a result, neither did the investors of the time. Only two models of the Puckle Gun exist today, at the homes of members of the Montagu family, the only people to ever buy Puckle Guns with the intention of using them.

Montagu, while acting as Britain’s Master-General of the Ordnance, purchased this first machine gun for use on a doomed expedition to capture St. Vincent and St. Lucia. It’s unknown if they were ever used in combat.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army wants huge 40mm cannons on Bradleys and Strykers

BAE Systems showed off its new 40mm cannon at Fort Benning in Georgia late March 2018, as the US Army looks to add more fire power to its Strykers, Bradleys, and perhaps other combat vehicles, according to Defense News.

“Everything went perfectly,” Rory Chamberlain, a business development manager at BAE Systems, told reporters after the cannon was fired, Defense News reported. BAE Systems is one of the largest defense companies in the world.


CTA International, a joint venture between BAE Systems and Nexter, began developing the weapon in 1994, and the gun was recently chosen by the UK and France for their new Ajax and EBRC Jaguar armored vehicles, according to The War Zone.

The cannon has six kinds of cased telescoped ammunition (meaning the projectile is in the cartridge with the charge), including aerial airbust rounds, airbust rounds, armor piercing rounds, point detonating rounds, and two more designated for training.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
(Photo by BAE Systems)

The 40mm rounds are up to four times stronger than 30mm rounds, according to BAE Systems.

Depending on which round is used, the cannon can take out a variety of armored vehicles and even older tanks, like the Russian T-55, The War Zone reported.

One of the most benefitial features of the gun is that it can fire at a high angle, making urban fighting easier, according to Defense News.

Chamberlain told Defense News that “Stryker lethality is open, as much as they got the Dragoon, that is a fat turret and it’s doing its job and it’s what they wanted,” adding that the lethality and requirements for the upgrade are still to be decided.

He said the same is possible for the Bradley, but Maj. Gen. David Bassett told Defense News in late 2017 that the Army is looking to replace its 25mm Bushmaster with a 30mm cannon.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This cyber threat will exploit almost all PCs, smartphones, and tablets

Silicon Valley is abuzz about “Meltdown” and “Spectre” — new ways for hackers to attack Intel, AMD, and ARM processors that were first discovered by Google last year and publicly disclosed Jan. 3.


Meltdown and Spectre, which take advantage of the same basic security vulnerability in those chips, could hypothetically be used by malicious actors to “read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications,” as Google puts it in a blog post.

The first thing you need to know: Pretty much every PC, laptop, tablet, and smartphone is affected by the security flaw, regardless of which company made the device or which operating system it runs. The vulnerability isn’t easy to exploit — it requires a specific set of circumstances, including having malware already running on the device — but it’s not just theoretical.

And the problem could affect much more than just personal devices. The flaw could be exploited on servers and in data centers and massive cloud-computing platforms such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud. In fact, given the right conditions, Meltdown or Spectre could be used by customers of those cloud services to actually steal data from one another.

Though fixes are already being rolled out for the vulnerability, they often will come with a price. Some devices, especially older PCs, could be slowed markedly by them.

Here’s what Meltdown and Spectre are. And, just as important, here’s what they’re not.

Am I in immediate danger from this?

There’s some good news: Intel and Google say they’ve never seen any attacks like Meltdown or Spectre actually being used in the wild. And companies including Intel, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are rushing to issue fixes, with the first wave already out.

The most immediate consequence of all of this will come from those fixes. Some devices will see a performance dip of as much as 30% after the fixes are installed, according to some reports. Intel, however, disputed that figure, saying the amount by which computers will be slowed will depend on how they’re being used.

The Meltdown attack primarily affects Intel processors, though ARM has said that its chips are vulnerable as well. You can guard against it with software updates, according to Google. Those are already starting to become available for Linux and Windows 10.

This time a selfless Army hero gets his turn at surprise
Brian Krzanich, Intel’s Chief Executive Officer. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Spectre, by contrast, appears to be much more dangerous. Google says it has been able to successfully execute Spectre attacks on processors from Intel, ARM, and AMD. And, according to the search giant, there’s no single, simple fix.

It’s harder to pull off a Spectre-based attack, which is why nobody is completely panicking. But the attack takes advantages of an integral part of how processors work, meaning it will take a new generation of hardware to stamp it out for good.

In fact, that’s how Spectre got its name.

“As it is not easy to fix, it will haunt us for quite some time,” the official Meltdown/Spectre FAQ says.

What are Meltdown and Spectre, anyway?

Despite how they’ve been discussed so far in the press, Meltdown and Spectre aren’t really “bugs.” Instead, they represent methods discovered by Google’s Project Zero cybersecurity lab to take advantage of the normal ways that Intel, ARM, and AMD processors work.

To use a Star Wars analogy, Google inspected the Death Star plans and found an exploitable weakness in a small thermal exhaust port. In the same way two precisely placed proton torpedoes could blow up the Death Star, so, too, can Meltdown and Spectre take advantage of a very specific design quirk and get around (or “melt down,” hence the name) processors’ normal security precautions.

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Let’s just hope your processor doesn’t end up looking like this. (Image from Star Wars)

In this case, the design feature in question is something called speculative execution, a processing technique that most Intel chips have used since 1995 and that is also common in ARM and AMD processors. With speculative execution, processors essentially guess what you’re going to do next. If they guess right, then they’re already ahead of the curve, and you have a snappier computing experience. If they guess wrong, they dump the data and start over.

What Project Zero found were two key ways to trick even secure, well-designed apps into leaking data from those returned processes. The exploits take advantage of a flaw in how the data is dumped that could allow them — with the right malware installed — to read data that should be secret.

This vulnerability is potentially particularly dangerous in cloud-computing systems, where users essentially rent time from massive supercomputing clusters. The servers in those clusters may be shared among multiple users, meaning customers running unpatched and unprepared systems could fall prey to data thieves sharing their processors.

What can I do about it?

To guard against the security flaw and the exploits, the first and best thing you can do is make sure you’re up-to-date with your security patches. The major operating systems have already started issuing patches that will guard against the Meltdown and Spectre attacks. In fact, fixes have already begun to hit Linux, Android, Apple’s MacOS, and Microsoft’s Windows 10. So whether you have an Android phone or you’re a developer using Linux in the cloud, it’s time to update your operating system.

Microsoft told Business Insider it’s working on rolling out mitigations for its Azure cloud platform. Google Cloud is urging customers to update their operating systems, too.

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It’s a good idea to stay current with your Windows updates. (Screenshot from Matt Weinberger)

It’s just as important to make sure you stay up to date. While Spectre may not have an easy fix, Google says there are ways to guard against related exploits. Expect Microsoft, Apple, and Google to issue a series of updates to their operating systems as new Spectre-related attacks are discovered.

Additionally, because Meltdown and Spectre require malicious code to already be running on your system, let this be a reminder to practice good online safety behaviors. Don’t download any software from a source you don’t trust. And don’t click on any links or files claiming you won $10 million in a contest you never entered.

Why could the fixes also slow down my device?

The Meltdown and Spectre attacks take advantage of how the “kernels,” or cores, of operating systems interact with processors. Theoretically, the two are supposed to be separated to some degree to prevent exactly this kind of attack. Google’s report, however, proves the existing precautions aren’t enough.

Operating system developers are said to be adopting a new level of virtual isolation, basically making requests between the processor and the kernel take the long way around.

The problem is that enforcing this kind of separation requires at least a little extra processing power, which would no longer be available to the rest of the system.

Related: Why it’s a big deal that Cyber Command is now a combatant command

As The New York Times notes, researchers are concerned that the fixes could slow down computers by as much as 20% to 30%. Microsoft is reported to believe that PCs with Intel processors older than the 2-year-old Skylake models could see significant slowdowns.

Intel disputes that the performance hits will be as dramatic as The Times suggests.

Some of the slowdowns, should they come to pass, could be mitigated by future software updates. Because the vulnerability was just made public, it’s possible that workarounds and new techniques for circumventing the performance hit will come to light as more developers work on solving the problem.

What happens next?

Publicly, Intel is confident the Meltdown and Spectre bugs won’t have a material impact on its stock price or market share, given that they’re relatively hard to execute and have never been used (that we know of). AMD shares are soaring on word that the easier-to-pull-off Meltdown attack isn’t known to work on its processors.

But as Google is so eager to remind us, Spectre looms large. Speculative execution has been a cornerstone of processor design for more than two decades. It will require a huge rethinking from the processor industry to guard against this kind of attack in the future. The threat of Spectre means the next generation of processors — from all the major chip designers — will be a lot different than they are today.

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Google is urging customers of its Google Cloud supercomputing service, hosted from data centers like this, to update their operating systems. (Image via Google)

Even so, the threat of Spectre is likely to linger far into the future. Consumers are replacing their PCs less frequently, which means older PCs that are at risk of the Spectre attack could be used for years to come.

As for mobile, there has been a persistent problem with updating Android devices to the latest version of the operating system, so there are likely to be lots of unpatched smartphones and tablets in use for as far as the eye can see. Would-be Spectre attackers are therefore likely to have their choice of targets.

It’s not the end of the world. But it just may be the end of an era for Intel, AMD, ARM, and the way processors are built.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.

Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.


FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.

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U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.

FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia plans largest national wargames in 40 years

Russia’s defense minister said the country will hold its biggest military exercises since almost 40 years.

Sergei Shoigu said on Aug. 28, 2018, that the drills, called Vostok-2018, will involve almost 300,000 troops, more than 1,000 aircraft, both the Pacific and Northern Fleets, and all Russian airborne units. They will take place in the central and eastern military districts, in southern Siberia, and the Far East.

“This is the biggest drill to take place in Russia since 1981,” Shoigu said in a statement.


He was referring to the Zapad exercises that year, which involved Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces and were the largest war drills ever carried out by the Soviet Union and its allies.

The Vostok-2018 exercises are set to be carried out from Sept. 11-15, 2018, with the participation of Chinese and Mongolian military personnel.

The maneuvers come as relations between Moscow and the West have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low. Tensions have been stoked by Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its alleged election meddling in the United States and Europe.

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In recent years, Russia’s military has stepped up the frequency and scope of its military exercises, reflecting the Kremlin’s multiyear focus on modernizing its armed forces and its tactics.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that such war games were “essential” in the current international situation, which he said is “often aggressive and unfriendly toward our country.”

NATO spokesman Dylan White said that Russia had briefed the alliance, which planned to monitor them.

“Vostok demonstrates Russia’s focus on exercising large-scale conflict. It fits into a pattern we have seen over some time: a more assertive Russia, significantly increasing its defense budget and its military presence,” White said in a statement.

Russia last held large-scale war games in September 2017, in regions bordering NATO countries in the Baltics.

Moscow and Minsk said the joint maneuvers involved some 12,700 troops in the two countries combined, but Western officials have said the true number may have been around 100,000.

Featured image: Marshalls Nikolay Ogarkov, Dmitry Ustinov, and Alexey Yepishev pose with airborne troopers during exercise ZAPAD-81.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Blimps, elephants, and 8 other ridiculous and expensive military programs

At some point in their military careers, all servicemembers have said: “I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”


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Full Disclosure: The author was once sent TDY to Disneyland. That’s not a joke.

From 1975 to 1984, a division of government contractor Litton Industries and two of its executives were accused of defrauding the government of $15 million through grossly inflated prices in its contracts. A 1986 book titled “The Pentagon Catalog” documented some of the Pentagon’s worst buys and the contractor who charged the government for them. It included a claw hammer sold by Gould Simulation Systems to the Navy for $435, McDonnell Douglas’ $2,043 nut, and the same McDonnell Douglas’ $37 screw.

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Insert double entendre here.

Other items offered in the catalog include a $285 screwdriver, a $7,622 coffee maker, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, and a $659 ashtray. And those examples listed above aren’t the only expensive military programs. Those aren’t even the most ridiculous programs the U.S. military implemented lately. Here are a few more things the Pentagon saw fit to buy without shopping around.

 

1. Giant, unmanned surveillance blimps

A live symbol of military spending run amok, in October 2015, a surveillance blimp escaped from its mooring in Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The balloon took out power lines as it floated 100 miles over Pennsylvania.

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Its technical name is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (or JLENS). It’s part of a $2.7 billion test to see if it can detect all the cruise missiles and aircraft that are constantly bombarding Maryland.

2. Luxury villas in Afghanistan

Complete with private security, the Defense Department spent $150 million on these Afghan McMansions between 2010 and 2014. The villas were built for 5-10 Pentagon employees from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a group whose mission includes rebuilding Afghanistan.

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Or at least a very small part of Afghanistan. These are the actual Afghan villas built by the TFBSO. (SIGAR Photo)

The $150 million they spent was approximately one-fifth of their operating budget. The villas included queen-size beds, mini refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. All meals had to come with at least two entree options and three side order options. The TFBSO spent $800 million before it was disbanded in March 2015.

3. What should have been the world’s most amazing gas station

The same IG who uncovered the lush Afghan villas, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), found the same task force – the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) – awarded a $3 million contract for a gas station in Afghanistan. The final price tag ballooned to $42.7 million.

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The actual $43 million gas station… At least it’s clean natural gas. (SIGAR photo)

While War on the Rocks disputes the idea that the funds were a waste or overspend, no one in the Pentagon seemed to know about what the Fiscal Times dubbed the Pentagon’s “slush fund.” The discovery of the TFBSO prompted Congress to mandate DoD to be ready for a full audit of its budget by 2017.

4. Hospitals we can’t find

While not part of a DoD program, the locations of hospitals and health centers funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Afghanistan is very important. In October 2105, a U.S. Air Force AC-130 attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz Province, Afghanistan.

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Hospital corpsman assigned to Company B, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, cleans a local Afghan elder’s foot to check for infection at a patrol base near Sangin, Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. William J. Faffler)

USAID’s $259.6 million program is a dangerous one, considering all the harm that could come to the health facilities. The SIGAR report that documented the missing hospitals noted the attack on the Kunduz hospital highlighted the need for the military to have GPS coordinates of hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

5. An 80-year supply of V-22 Osprey parts

The Defense Logistics Agency recently purchased spare parts for the V-22 from Bell Helicopter and Boeing at a total cost of $9.7 million. The U.S. military goes through roughly two aircraft frames per year. The DLA purchased 166.

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Petty Officer 3rd Class Jerry Lowe directs an MV-22 Osprey in for landing on the flight deck of the USS Essex (LHD 2) off the coast of Southern California on Feb. 26, 2000. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jason A. Pylarinos, U.S. Navy)

This probably means that when the rest of the military is flying hovercraft and Iron Man suits in 2097, the Marine Corps will still be running off of Ospreys. To make matters worse, the IG reports the markup on some of those parts was a whopping $8,123.50, up from $445.60 – as much as eighteen times what the military should have paid.

6. Bomb-sniffing elephants

This one may sound like a crazy Cold-War era scheme that was somehow going to bring down the Iron Curtain, but no. In 2015, Sen. John McCain slammed the DoD for a study trying to find if elephants were more useful than dogs in sniffing bombs. The surprise is that they are but – to no one’s astonishment – they are not as practical.

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At least Hannibal crossed the Alps. What did YOU do, elephant? (Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Army Research Office paid an untold sum of money for this program, even though it’s been well documented that giant rats are more effective and efficient.

7. The Road to Nowhere

Another Afghan boondoggle, Afghanistan’s Highway 1 was funded jointly with American and Saudi money. The 1677-mile stretch of road whose shoddy construction means high maintenance costs on top of construction costs. The $4 billion project also costs $5 million per mile to rebuild or maintain.

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Trucks wait to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border in Zaranj, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011. The crossing is part of a busy trade route between Central Asia and the Middle East. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)

Designed to link Afghanistan’s major cities, the highway was of no real use to Afghan civilians and is primarily used by foreign militaries. This last fact means it’s also a bomb magnet, only adding to its deterioration. On top of that, billions of dollars tagged for the project just disappeared.

8. The HQ no one needed…

… to the tune of $25 million, no less. This headquarters office is 64,000 square feet of prime Afghan real estate that three generals tried to kill before it could be built. No dice, though. The new HQ features a 125-person auditorium, special entrance for VIPs, and $2 million worth of furniture.

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(ProPublica photo)

The HQ is in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with an additional $20 million of infrastructure built around the base to support it, even though U.S. troops left Helmand after the temporary surge in 2010.

9. Warlord Truckers

This should be a reality show, except it’s not a show; it was a program that hired local truckers in Afghanistan to move material with their own trucks.

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Afghan truckers make their way towards Friendship Gate, the border crossing in Wesh, Afghanistan, on their way to Pakistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Juan Valdes)

Except twenty percent of that money went to local warlords for protection, which fueled unrest, corruption, and warlordism. It’s kinda like that $37 million bridge from Afghanistan to Tajikistan built by the Army Corps of Engineers, which really just helped drug runners run drugs. Unfortunately, that’s not the first time the military helped spur on an illegal trade.

10. Paying stoners from Florida to be their arms traffickers

It must have been a huge surprise to everyone involved when the Pentagon awarded an actual lowest-bid contract to a few unknown stoners from Miami Beach. These guys were awarded a $300 million contract to deliver arms to U.S. allies in Afghanistan. Instead of shiny new weapons, the guys run old Communist guns from the Balkans and repackage Chinese ammo. It’s the subject of the new Jonah Hill-Miles Teller movie “War Dogs.”

 

“War Dogs” is in theaters August 19th. The U.S. military will be throwing money around like an Afghan warlord long after that.

Articles

How atomic bombs fueled Las Vegas tourism in the 1950s

You would think that nuclear weapons testing and tourism wouldn’t go together. But in fact, tourists who went to Las Vegas to watch the nuclear tests helped fuel the growth of that city in the 1950s.


In the 1950s, the United States carried out over 150 nuclear weapons tests above ground. Some of these tests – particularly the large-scale thermo-nuclear bomb tests like the 1954 Castle Bravo test, which had a 15-megaton yield – were carried out in the Central Pacific. Not exactly accessible to tourists, but well out of the way (an important consideration considering the power of the bombs).

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Nuclear weapons

However, in Nevada — where the explosions and subsequent mushroom clouds were visible from Las Vegas — These tests gave that rapidly-growing city’s economy a surprising boost. Many tourists traveled to Vegas hoping they’d see one of these tests take place.

Of course, today, we know about the after-effects of all those explosions, including fallout that leads to cancer and other medical issues for people who were downwind of the nuclear blasts.

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The Buster-Jangle Dog nuclear test of a 21-kiloton weapon. (Photo: US Department of Energy)

Back then, it was seen as just a fancy fireworks display for Sin City residents and tourists on the United States government’s dime. In 1963, the Partial Test Ban Treaty was ratified. That ended the era of above-ground testing, and limited the blasts to underground.

The U.S. continued to carry out underground nuclear tests until 1992, when the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty curtailed nuke blasts. That treaty, however, has still not been ratified by the Senate. Check out this video from the Smithsonian Channel to learn more about Sin City’s nuclear tourism boom (pun intended).

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